How do I adjust to being by myself?
November 15, 2011 9:37 AM   Subscribe

I'm recently divorced, and I'm realizing that I have never lived alone. I've always had roommates, parents, girlfriends or my ex-wife. And, wow, am I having a hard time with living by myself.

I'm keeping very busy. I have some sort of activity or gathering planned most nights. But if I get home at 8:30 pm, the hours between then and when I go to sleep are agonizingly lonely. I've always had someone to talk to whenever I wanted, and I can barely stand it. I find myself staring at facebook, compulsively clicking "refresh" for hours. Watching TV or reading just makes me think about how quiet and dark it is. Sunday afternoons are excruciating.

What can I do to get over this? I don't want to get a dog, since that would force me to stay home most evenings and I have to travel occasionally for business. I'm not fond of cats. Getting a roommate seems drastic, and potentially worse than the disease. Besides, I'm 42 and would feel weird renting out my small second bedroom.

Do single people just get used to being by themselves? How do I adjust to this?
posted by bonecrusher to Human Relations (58 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
How to be alone
posted by John Cohen at 9:42 AM on November 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

take up a hobby your ex wouldn't have approved of.
posted by virginia_clemm at 9:45 AM on November 15, 2011 [7 favorites]

A few years ago, I was in a similar situation. I had always lived with at least 1 other human and at first, it was really hard. Here is what helped me:
- Finding a do-at-home hobby that is really absorbing. Something that requires a lot of attention so that when you look up at the clock, hours have gone by. So if you have ever wanted to build a ship in a bottle or something, this could be a good time.
- Streaming tv and movies. Especially documentaries or something foreign
- Getting a cat. You mention not liking them so I don't know if you mean "will never" or "just haven't so far" but getting pointycat was a lifesaver. Maybe you could meet some shelter cats to see if there is one you like?
- Challenging physical exercise. Being exhausted and sweaty made me glad to be alone.

Good luck!
posted by pointystick at 9:46 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

It takes some time to become comfortable with, to grow into and enjoy the ability to live your life without bouncing it off another person every minute of the day. It also takes some attention to raise the volume of your interior dialogue; if you're missing conversation, you're probably interesting enough to have it with yourself. I do!

My other suggestion is that while you may not want a room mate, you might consider letting your 2nd bedroom to couchsurfers or Air B n B, just to break up the monotony.

And if none of that settles for you, reconsider the cat. Not a fan of the genre myself, but individual beasts have been good company.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take up a hobby that involves socialization. My mom lives alone, and I think the only thing that keeps her from empty nest syndrome is her multitude of knitting group meetings.
posted by litnerd at 9:49 AM on November 15, 2011

Man, I hear you about Sunday afternoons. Douglas Adams was totally right about the Long Dark Teatime of the Soul. Here are a couple of things I do when I get to feeling like that:

- Go out in public with a book or a laptop, just to be physically around people but have no expectation of social contact.
- Go to the gym. Exercise is good, having the staff start to recognize you is better. (I had no idea until I signed up one of my friends that the back office staff not only recognized me but knew what my workouts were generally. Kind of made me feel like a rockstar.)
- Play an online game. Not so much recommended if you have an addictive personality, but WoW and the like can be the equivalent of going to the park and finding a pick-up basketball game, but at any hour.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:51 AM on November 15, 2011

When I first started out on my own, I tended to leave the radio turned to the local public radio station. Just hearing voices talking settled my nerves even if I wasn't paying attention. I might read a book while it was on or dink around online.

After a few years of this, I found myself much better at party small talk about random topics and much smarter about financial issues. I guess I was listening.

(Yes, we are public radio members.)
posted by advicepig at 9:52 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding "leave a radio on" while you read or do things. Or put on any other music you like.

All the better if that music is something that gets you dancing because if you're all alone you can have the Big Awesome Happy Dance Party In Your Head that you always wanted without worrying that people are going to think you dance like Elaine Benes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:55 AM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Try to go to sleep at 9pm for a while. You can get eight full hours of sleep, or more if you need it, and still be up before 6am. Few things are better for the soul (especially the post-breakup soul) than truly rejuvenative amounts of sleep, and even though I still consider myself a night owl, I've found that the morning is much more conducive to being busy and productive in a non-lonely way than the evening.

Meanwhile, do you have a neighbor with a dog who would be totally psyched if you offered to take him/her for a long walk on weekday mornings or Sunday afternoons?
posted by argonauta at 9:59 AM on November 15, 2011 [9 favorites]

When I lived alone, I learned to cook, volunteered at the library, and went to bed really early. I feel you on the loneliness of evening hours and Sunday afternoons, but once I got into a groove it was awesome.
posted by mchorn at 10:01 AM on November 15, 2011

Do you have neighbours? I've never made a huge effort with my neighbours in almost all my previous places, but in my current block I really went all out, and WOW is it rewarding.

It's funny cause I can be a bit hermitty, but making time when I can for them has brought me so much happiness - I've learnt new games, words in other languages, I've tried new foods, and with some of them I'm now on such good terms they will just call round, unannounced for tea. They don't even mind if I'm not in the mood for tea, they pootle off happily :)

Even in my old block I made a bit of an effort. There was an elderly lady who, if I baked, I would take her some of the end product (there's always some left over if you live alone, sharing is awesome!). There was a hasidic jewish couple whose daughter I used to occasionally babysit on sabbath evening so they could go out to celebrate with friends.

Hot damn. I didn't really think about it properly before but neighbours are awesome :)
posted by greenish at 10:02 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is there a project you'd like to get done? A basement that needs organizing, a piece of furniture that you could build, a garden you could plant next spring (and plan all winter), a volunteer organization that you could volunteer to plan an event for, something in your house that should be fixed, etc?

I don't do too well with general hobbies (when I'm bored, I find myself with the TV on, a book open in front of me, and wondering what music I should listen to) but goal-based hobbies work very well. i.e. "learn to knit" doesn't inspire me nearly as much as "find some way to make myself a good warm sweater like I can't find in the stupid fashionable stores this year". Think of something to want, and start thinking of ways to make it happen.
posted by aimedwander at 10:03 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

God, this is so bizarre to me. I've almost always lived alone so I can't really relate. Is it that hard to watch TV, read a book, try a new recipe, talk to friends/family on the phone, putz around the house - something always needs cleaning or fixing or fiddling with, do hobbies, plan stuff to do, surf the net, get together with friends, go to movies, try new restaurants. You can do all of those things by yourself with no one to poopoo your choice of movie (chick flick, slasher, subtitled), book (scifi, romance, self help, coloring) or kind of food (raw vegan Japanese) .

And when you do see friends you can tell them about the interesting movie you saw, book you read, restaurant you ate at or new thing you learned how to do.
posted by shoesietart at 10:18 AM on November 15, 2011 [20 favorites]

Humans are social animals--it's not easy for most of us to be alone. You're not weird, and it's normal that you should have trouble adjusting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:22 AM on November 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

At first it was unnerving and I did the horrible things that made me wallow in self pity -- eating microwave food over the sink at random intervals, wavering between going out a ton and then hiding in the house being sad, leaving the house messy. And I was really unhappy.

Then, because I realized my ex was a person who hated planning and structure and that had been "trained" out of me, I brought some structure into my life. I planned meals in advance. I ate at the dining room table -- not over the sink or in front of the TV. I had a friend over once a week, forcing me to clean. I never went out more than two or three days a week because I found that was my limit. One of those nights, I taught a night class. One I did something "wild/big/single lady appropriate" -- which was normally a ravey party, bar or concert. And one I did what I really wanted to do, dragging someone with me -- see art movies, go to nice restaurants or just over to dinner at someone else's house.

I listened to more radio and didn't watch TV that wasn't a movie I meant to see. I set a mini chore schedule.

Just as I got almost good at it, I got into a long distance relationship that turned into a relationship (which screws with your schedule) and all my new-found alone skills went to waste. But I've never been more proud of myself than that time. I'm happy now, but I'm really, really glad I had that time to prove my grownup-ness to myself.
posted by Gucky at 10:25 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I love having time to myself. You could try to turn some of the negatives into positives - there's no one to tell you to turn down your music... you can watch whatever you want without criticism... you can sit and read in perfect quiet if you like... you can turn the thermostat to anything you want... basically, you get to do whatever you want without being beholden to anyone.

When you start feeling lonely, maybe you can check in here at metafilter or play a game online. Try to find something to immerse yourself in, playing a video game, building a computer...
posted by parakeetdog at 10:26 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have discovered that I do better when I have a roommate, even if I only rarely see them. It makes me remain at least vaguely civilized- clean the dishes, at least pretend to be in a decent mood, bathe... Also, alone time becomes something precious instead of something dreaded. I even looked forward to trips where I'd be alone in a hotel room, which is something that used to depress the heck out of me.

So now I always have a roommate, even though I can afford a place of my own.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2011

take up a hobby

I don't think this can be over-stressed, even if you're in a relationship that feels like it could never end. It will. Or it just won't be there for you when you need it.

I'm thinking of my dad here. His whole life was work and family and he was a great dad in this regard (provided well, always there for us as we grew). But at a certain point (when I was 15), my mom kickstarted her career with a vengeance and suddenly she just wasn't around that much. Meanwhile, we kids were growing up, moving out, getting on with our lives. Meanwhile, he was getting too old for the work he was doing.

Suddenly, he was in his mid-60s, mostly retired and very lonely a lot of the time with no means (or ability) to amuse/engage himself. He just watched TV. As an old friend of his commented after my dad's death -- "How does a man make it to middle age without a hobby?"

So yeah, easier said than done ... but I do encourage you. Find something that gives you pleasure and go at it with passion, as if your life depends on it. Because it does.

Good luck.
posted by philip-random at 10:34 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was going to say pretty much what shoesietart did. But I guess it does take a while to come to realize all the ways in which living alone is awesome. It's sort of like learning a new skill. I mean, you're 42 and you've never been able to do whatever you want, wear whatever you want, cook and eat whatever you want, whenever you want. You probably don't even know what you want, after all those years of constantly melding what you want with the wants and needs of others. But you'll figure it out. And it's really enjoyable, I swear.

On Sunday afternoons, are you just sitting at home? I sort of like sitting at home, especially if it involves baking or streaming movies or reading books. But if you like more activity, then go to a movie, go to a new park, or museum, or historic site, or bookstore, or whatever other kind of store you like. Go to a town near you that you've never been to and walk around. Take photos. Do some kind of sport or take a class. Sit in a coffee shop.

Also, do you email people on a regular (like daily) basis? Maybe you can't call friends or family on the phone or text them all the time, but having a few people with whom you regularly email (doesn't have to be long serious messages, just little things) can really make you feel connected even if you haven't spoken to anyone for days.

A hobby would be good but I don't think you need one; it's OK if you're not a hobby person. Having a bunch of different interests or ways you like to spend time will do just as well, even if nothing gets built or knitted or whatever.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:39 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Social things that you can do while being alone: Hang out in IRC. Hang out on MeFi. Play World of Warcraft, Minecraft on a public server, or another MMO or online game. There are even ways to play more traditional games like chess or go online, which gives you an activity to get into offline as well.
How to deal with being alone for the first time in your life: have patience with yourself, give it time. Divorce is painful and takes a long time to recover from, and that may be making solitude wore for you than it would be otherwise. Or you may just be a total extrovert who is miserable alone. Both are normal, and will probably resolve themselves in due time. You may never learn to love being on your own the way that an introvert will, but you'll get better and more comfortable at it the more you practice, just like introverts will get better at socializing and dealing with people the more they do it.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 10:40 AM on November 15, 2011

I was where you were last year. I was alone for the first time in years in a two bedroom apartment that was just echoing with loneliness in the evenings. And it was so, so cold.

Things that helped:
-I thought I didn't want a roommate. I got one because I couldn't afford to be without one. Things got better almost immediately after he moved in. The place felt lived-in. We clicked from the first day and he's now my running buddy and a good friend.
-Making my apartment more cozy and comfortable to be in: I added soft lighting and bought throws. Think safe cave with glowing fire in the middle, not big empty warehouse.
-Making friends with the neighbors. So far, they've been a source of great conversation, beer, hugs, and music lessons.
-Making something that fills the place with a homey smell. Bread, cookies, chili, stew. Then inviting the neighbors to partake if there's too much of it.
-Leaving the TV or radio on so that you're always listening in on a conversation and hearing people laugh.
-Taking guitar lessons and filling the apartment up with noise.
posted by millions of peaches at 10:40 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you ever wanted to get a motorcycle now is the time. Sunday afternoon will fly by, and when you stop there is often someone interesting to talk with.
posted by alfanut at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

Stay away from the computer for a while. Clicking refresh on facebook and surfing the internet can just make you more aware of the loneliness.

Make some lists of books or movies or stuff at home you've always wanted to get to. Do that.

Also, just give yourself some time to sit quietly, take long hot showers, drink tea, and rearrange the place the way you'd like. Have the radio on for a while.

You'll slowly become more comfortable with it, and don't feel the need to be Busy! Every! Minute! Just give it some time.
posted by canine epigram at 10:44 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's possible that filling up your time, as most of the above suggestions would have you do, may not fill up the lonely hole you have inside. A lot of people just struggle with it.

If not for your statement that alone time is "agonizingly lonely", I would agree with most of the suggestions above. However this statement may mean that you can't differentiate being alone from loneliness.

Being OK by yourself is, for some people, a learned skill. You may need to seek some help to get there; someone with whom you can discover why it feels so agonizing. Find a therapist, a spiritual advisor or someone else trained to get to the root of these feelings.
posted by johnn at 10:47 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Volunteering or joining a club of some sort may help, as it will widen your social circle. At the end of the day, volunteering and clubs may help you find another mate, which it sounds like you really need.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:49 AM on November 15, 2011

I have a similiar issue - I have never lived alone, either. Or have been alone in an empty house for days at a time. Recently my boyfriend started working 3rd shift, so we only see each other on the weekends.
Although I'm introverted, I have pretty bad anxiety, so I've been trying to keep myself busy to avoid it. I also am sort of new to the area I live in and have zero friends/family around.

Stuff I've been doing:

-sewing crafty stuff for the upcoming holidays (something I thought I'd never be doing)
-catching up with family and friends via email and telephone
-interacting on internet forums/message boards
-watching television/movies that are funny or inspiring
-playing Pogo games online
-cleaning/reorganizing the house
posted by KogeLiz at 10:57 AM on November 15, 2011

I completely understand where you're coming from. I had to relearn how to be alone this year (after years of being an introvert no less!). What really works for me is cooking, especially with good music or a tv show on. The noises (food cooking, music/tv), smells, and warmth really make an empty space seem much fuller. Cooking can also be really time-consuming, and just eats up those empty hours. Plus, at the end, you have something lovely to eat! If you're not much of a cook now, just pick a few meals that you really enjoy and learn how to consistently produce them for yourself. Don't feel pressured to be fast or perfect, just enjoy the process. Being happily alone is definitely something that can be learned- good luck!
posted by Polyhymnia at 10:57 AM on November 15, 2011

Is there a place in your neighborhood where you can go when the aloneness becomes overwhelming? A coffee shop that's open late, or a quiet bar where you could sit with a glass of wine and read a book? A populated park, if the weather's nice on weekends? Basically, if you can find a space where other people are around, but you can be alone with them, it might help to ease the transition at times when it's particularly tough.

Also, this is why people get pets. It doesn't have to be a cat. If you're prepared to take on the responsibility, a hamster or a bird or a lizard could help to just be present and distract you a bit. But you do need to understand and be willing to take on the responsibility of caring for another living thing that is utterly dependent on you.

Finally, it is in no way weird to take on a roommate for company, regardless of your age and the size of the room. Since you don't need the money, you can set the rent on the low side and then be very, very picky about your tenant, to ensure that you'll be compatible.

You will eventually get used to being alone. You may or may not come to enjoy it. But if you don't want to get used to it, and if you really don't like it, you don't have to. There are no rules about how adults have to arrange their living situations; that's one of the great perks of being an adult.
posted by decathecting at 11:04 AM on November 15, 2011

I remember that feeling of the long, yawning Sunday afternoons when I lived alone for the first time. I'd been recently dumped, kicked out of my shared apartment, and had no money. It sucked. I couldn't afford internet access, so I couldn't do the endless Facebook refresh, but otherwise, that sounds about right.

I did a number of thing things advised above. I created a cleaning/habit schedule and got the rest of my life whipped into shape. I listened to a lot of public radio and rented books and movies from the library. I sat in coffee shops to "be social" all afternoon (I could either buy drinks or tip - so I bought a single tea bag and tipped at every top-off of hot water).

Eventually, those afternoons came to be a time of profound contentment, of really getting to know myself. I am better for that time. And it seemed, at the time, that it would last forever, but looking back, it was only a few months. Then I met someone, started hanging out more with friends, started getting too busy again. Now, what I wouldn't give for a day with no plans!

Start slowly - find a hobby. What's something you've always been interested in? Something your ex hated or just didn't care about? What did you do when you were a kid? How can you get back to spending time with that thing? Now, while you're thinking about it - go turn on the radio.

Good luck.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:12 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a pet.
posted by eas98 at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2011

Well, I guess I should have read more carefully.
posted by eas98 at 11:19 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

All of these are good suggestions, so I won't rehash them. But here's something I like do alone: take small trips on those endless Sunday afternoons. Go to a nearby city just to see what's there and wander around for a bit. Take a drive in the country. Find a cool spot, a restaurant, a historical site, a park, a tourist attraction, whatever, and just...go. You could even alleviate our loneliness by using those trips to go visit old friends and family sometimes (though don't make it reliant on them).

I like being alone, and I like traveling alone, so YMMV. But I highly recommend just up and going somewhere totally random, just for the hell of it. Because you know what's awesome? No one can stop you!
posted by breakin' the law at 11:24 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you/could you become a sports fan? Pro football was pretty much invented to give us something to do on Sundays. Or there are a hundred other interesting televised sporting events these days apart from the big four: Soccer, darts, cycling, track & field, tennis, spelling bee, etc. Have people over for the game/match/meet. Or if your friends are watching the game at the bar, just go even if you're not so interested in the actual game. It's fun and it passes the time.
posted by CheeseLouise at 11:26 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

This was me, when I first moved to New York. I've trained myself to now need alone time. I crave it.

Something that helped me was thinking to myself, "Enjoy this. Someday you may have a new significant other, two squabbling kids, and a barking dog. You will look back on this fondly, and wonder why you were so bummed. Enjoy this."

That's not to say every minute of every day is super-enjoyable-luxuriant-bubble-bath-time. Sometimes you will be bored. But keep reminding yourself that "Someday you will not have this," and you'll find yourself actually enjoying your time alone.

(Oh my god, a glass of wine and a book at my local bar. And holy luxury, NPR blasting at 7 am.)
posted by functionequalsform at 11:38 AM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's hard to adjust either way, to be honest. I lived alone for years, loved it, and couldn't imagine living any other way. Now, if I'm home alone for a day, it feels like there's a bunch of empty time and space and nothing to fill it.

Some of it is just time. Some of it is finding other ways to be social; getting out into the world regularly, even if you're by yourself in a crowd, will help a lot, and it sounds like you're already doing that.

And making your home as pleasant as possible is huge. Clean. Organize. Decorate. Get new luxurious bedding or fancy toiletries for the bathroom if that's up your alley. Fake plants, action figures, glow-in-the-dark stars, Thomas Kinkade paintings, whatever. It's your space, so fill it with things that make you happy.

Also, now is the time to take up a loud, physically involved, or potentially embarrassing hobby. Take up breakdancing or learn H.M.S. Pinafore by heart. You're free to move around, be loud, and practically be a kid again. You can even take the action figures out of their display cases and play with them; no one will know.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:47 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

i have experienced the feelings you are feeling after a breakup. I also got crazy busy filling up all my free time with activities, and guess what, I burned out because of that. I realized I have to spend time alone some times....and I decided I was going to enjoy it. It was really tough at first. Boy have I come a long way to enjoying my own company. I enjoy my own company so much that my significant other sometimes feels left out! So what I did to get to a really comfortable place being home alone was what everyone is suggesting - I got a cat. Cat's make your place homey. I know guys who hate cats but ended up with one for one reason or another and it became their best pal, buddy. Cats have a variety of personalities. Go to the animal rescue once a week and play with them all. After a while you may find one you like. I did this over the course of a few months and ended up with my dear pal, Caroline who is believe or not, a big personality and i never feel alone when she is around.

i got a netflix subscription and watched everything i wanted. I read. I always have either music, NPR, or the TV on as background - even when I'm reading. I am not a phone talker, so talking on the phone is no comfort to me. I started a meetup group for my neighborhood and transformed the community - its got a bazillan members now - several marraiges and friendships grew from it. I no longer run it, but it transformed my life. Finding friends that literally live walking distance is HUGE. There are plenty of people out there who also want to hang with someone on a sunday afternoon (whether as friends or more). I also joined an ultimate frisbee team - and that lead to tons of friendships, a few dates, and many many party invitations, as well as great exercise. And people of all ages, and walks of life play (well, at least in the metro area that I live in). I started salsa dancing three times a week. I got really good at it. In my city I can dance any night of the week, there is a big salsa community here. Tons of guys are taking salsa - that is how I met my BF.

I got in a routine of having me time. So much that if I don't have me time, I go bonkers. You will get to the point where you really enjoy yourself. But it takes time. I also learned to meditate and joined an insight meditation group at a unitarian church.
posted by BlueMartini7 at 11:50 AM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

As others have said being alone need not be the same as being lonely. I've lived alone for the last 3 years or so and I love it.

As to how you would learn how to be alone - no idea, as far as I can remember I have never really felt lonely when I was alone. I talk to myself, I walk round naked in the flat, I get up when I want and do what I want. Last month I successfully turned what was supposed to be 5 more or less back to back shortish business trips into a month away with weekends with people I hadn't seen in a while or in places I'd never been to. It was brilliant because you can only do that kind of stuff if you do not have to consider other people....and yes, I am one of those people who can be quite content in hotel rooms, alone.

Here is what I do do when home alone:
- domestic tasks - it feels nice to do these things because it means you value yourself enough to ensure your home is nice to be in - also stops you from becoming a bit feral because you live alone and nobody holds you accountable if there's a week's worth of dishes piling up in the sink
- cooking - I like to cook, cooking a meal for one is not fun, so I cook a whole batch of something and freeze stuff, I bake cakes or brownies or something and take them into work etc.
- listen to the radio whilst playing on the internet or doing chores or what have you
- have a long hot bath - music on in the background or the radio or talking to people on the phone
- yoga
- mend stuff
- iron whilst watching the tv
- Skype with overseas friends for hrs
- call people on the phone
- plan and execute a diy project, this does include learning how to do stuff on youtube or calling more handy family members for instructions etc.
- online shopping
- plan my next holiday or scheme how I can add a weekend away to my next business trip and where and how I am going to sell that to my bosses
- read books with a nice steaming coffee or a glass of wine, and then some more books, and then I re-read the ones I've already read because you miss stuff the first time round, and even the second time round
- sleep in
- watch programmes or films I've been meaning to watch for ages
- when I had a more regular work schedule and didn't travel for work I went to exercise classes 4 nights a week, what with the post work out beauty regime and having to fix lunch for the next day I had plenty to do until bedtime

Note how these are all things I do home alone. There are plenty of things you can do outside your home, too, that don't require company:
- go for a walk and have a coffee in a coffee shop, just sit there and people watch and feel indulgent because you can just do that
- hiking, this tends to entail more planning and forethought and thus time spent before you engage in the activity
- shopping, even window-shopping or food shopping or a diy shop
- go to a museum, exhibition, the park, the station or the airport - let your mind wander, people watch
- go to the theatre, the cinema or a concert
- go and listen to some live music somewhere
- try a new restaurant - yes, people go there alone, take a book if you want or watch people
- find a local bar you can start to frequent
- get on the bus and see where it goes, just for the hell of it, repeat with the train, try different routes
- go into your city centre or the next town or somewhere different and just wander round and explore
- go to the library and learn some local history, a language or learn about something you've always been fascinated by but never had time to explore

Chances are if you can start to think of this as an opportunity to be self indulgent, even as a luxury you are allowed to enjoy for the first time in your life you will come to find plenty of things you enjoy doing alone, to the extent that you will sometimes hesitate before accepting invitations to join people in an activity or event because you were looking forward to that glass of wine and the rest of your that point congratulate yourself - you have now learned to be alone without being lonely.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:04 PM on November 15, 2011 [12 favorites]

First, use the time to fix things/paint things/rearrange furniture, so your home is nice to be in without thinking "oh, I have tons of stuff to fix/paint, and I hate how this room looks." Remember, this is your first chance to make your environment into one you want to be in, with no compromises for other people's tastes.

Second, play music. It helps to have sound in the house, so that you don't feel weighed down by oppressive silence. It doesn't have to be loud. Make it something you enjoy, obviously.

Third, get used to it. Being alone takes getting used to, just like living with other people takes getting used to if you've always lived alone. Give yourself some time to settle into it.

Finally, since your time is your own, what do you like to do? Do it. Go out. Stay in. Attend to a small hobby, or a larger interest. Practice something. Learn something. Invite people over, accept other people's invitations. Like TV, having someone around all the time can be a distraction from actually living your life, so now you have to start living it. It may take a while, just keep at it.
posted by davejay at 12:29 PM on November 15, 2011

When you get into that extremely anxious lonely state, you could try to force yourself to sit and write out what you're feeling and thinking. It'll be hard to force yourself to do so rather than falling back on Facebook surfing: it means confronting your thoughts and feelings instead of avoiding them and the thoughts and feelings you're having are scary. The goal is to try to get out on paper whatever you can and to try to be specific and examine your thoughts instead of allowing them to remain vague. A lot of scary villains lose their scariness when you face them and let the daylight shine on them. It can be immediately calming and grounding.
posted by Paquda at 12:48 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been in your situation. N'thing regular work-outs. Use the spare time to really sort out your life, everything from filing and tidying and fixing stuff to finishing your novel or what-have-you. And thirdly, go out and brazenly make some new friends.
posted by londongeezer at 1:14 PM on November 15, 2011

With all the great suggestions above (and there are a ton of them!), the big issue is learning how to be alone, and being okay with it. I went through a period where I lived alone for several years. It was difficult early on, but after a while I made a point (at the risk of sounding trite) to learn to love myself. It's a long, introspective process that's not always enjoyable, but ultimately rewarding at the end of it all. After a big life transition, take the time to focus on yourself and who you are. Even consider seeing a therapist to help you adjust to the transition. After all, divorce is a major event in your life, altering the way you've learned how to live for years.

Also, join a bowling league. Bowling kicks ass.
posted by slogger at 1:24 PM on November 15, 2011

This sounds stupid, but I've lived alone a lot and in college when I couldn't have actual furry pets I kept a betta fish. Bob was nice to come home to.

Also, enjoy hanging out in your underpants, eating cheetos and playing computer games for a while. Or maybe some movie or television show you can really get lost in. It's something I still enjoy doing when my husband isn't here. (I usually refer to this as 'vacationing on planet Sarah', and it's like hitting the 'reset' button. After 2-3 days of it, I'm ready to join the world again, refreshed.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:12 PM on November 15, 2011

I found enjoyment out of laying on the bathroom floor wallowing in my misery for a few days. I enjoyed not showering, forgetting to eat, walking aimlessly between rooms in my pajamas with a blanket wrapped around me... I enjoyed talking to my friends over the phone in sort of a rushed-I'll-be-alone-forever voice.

Then the therapy sessions I'd started scheduling actually began. I started forcing myself into a routine, and I (albeit briefly) joined a divorce support group. I started to take care of myself. I adopted the strategy that talking to myself was ok and part of the grieving process.

I started to do things again, hang out with friends, go see movies, walk the dog regularly, and even do laundry. I found a new place to move to, closer to work. Friends helped me move. Therapy started to do wonders. A month later, I was a bit shaky, but I at least resembled myself again.

In all seriousness, mope. Grieve. A big part of your life changed. It will take some time to get through it - as well as reflection and time with both the good and the bad voices in your head.

Challenge yourself during the grieving phase and do things like talk to people or socialize. Yeah, a hobby helps distract, but so does some acknowledgement of the change. Filling an empty void with a potentially empty activity can sometimes bebe avoidance.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:27 PM on November 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

Go out to do things even if you're alone. Go the the movies alone and buy popcorn. Go eat at a restaurant alone and eat something crazy. Read a book while you're waiting for your food. Go to museums alone and take forever walking at your own pace. Go to concerts alone and get there early to get up close to the stage and chat with whoever else came early or just get into the music. Make some popcorn at home and eat it while watching a new movie. Get a cat and complain to him about the lame plot holes in the movie (he'll totally agree). Listen to the radio or have it on in the background. NPR was great for me. Have a certain night of the week where you watch all the new weekly episodes of your favorite shows. Make it special by buying junk food to snack on while you watch. Reach out to friends to hang out every now and then. Try online dating if you feel like it.

It's seriously freeing to go do things alone that you normally wouldn't and not give a damn. It's about being comfortable doing things you enjoy regardless of whether or not somebody is accompanying you. Know that you won't always be alone and try to really appreciate this new experience in your life before it changes.
posted by side effect at 2:55 PM on November 15, 2011

For me, the awesome part about living alone is that you can put your huge, nasty, oily, dirty projects in the kitchen sink or bathtub and LEAVE THEM THERE! For as long as you want!
posted by small_ruminant at 3:06 PM on November 15, 2011

Invite people over. Have a weekly spaghetti and games night or pizza and movies night. It will give you something to look forward to, a reason to clean your house once in a while, and possibly for a few hours after they leave every week, you'll appreciate your solitude and down-town.

Other ideas: plan to go out so you're not just sitting at home all the time. Do meetups, especially activity focused ones like photography walks (insert hobby you like). Take a cooking class or a filmmaking class, or whatever you're interested in. Lots of times you kind find those sorts of classes scheduled for Sundays. Start a philosophy bookclub. Use Saturday afternoons to Skype with interesting friends in other countries. Or use Sundays to call friends and family and catch up, write birthday cards, whatever.

Don't get sucked into too much can become time-consuming and soul-sucking in the end, especially if you live alone.

Going out to a coffee shop helps with the isolated feeling, even if all you're doing is hanging out with your laptop and eavesdropping on the baristas.

Unfortunately you have to "plan" more when you live alone in order to get in enough social time.
posted by thelastcamel at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've lived alone quite a high percentage of the years of my life, but I know the first few months after my ex-wife moved out were horribly lonely. Just unbearable, and not anything like how I've felt before or since. I tried hanging out with friends more or doing activities but the only thing that actually made that feeling go away was getting a new girlfriend and spending weekends with her.
posted by w0mbat at 2:12 AM on November 16, 2011

I've lived alone for many years. A lot of the above advice is great; I'll just add a note on the pet issue bcs keeping a pet or two can help incredibly when you're feeling lonely. I don't have time for a dog and am allergic to cats, but I've found that rodents make excellent low-maintenance companions. Many are nocturnal so they'll just sleep while you're away all day, they need minimal care, and they're fun to watch. I've kept both hamsters and rats. Rats are especially sociable (get 2 of them and they'll keep each other company), while hamsters are less sociable but can still bond with you. I've heard guinea pigs are fun, too. Reptiles and even fish are other options. Just go to a pet store and see if anything hits you. It really does help to have a little critter to say hello to when you get home at night.

Good luck to you. It's hard, I know.
posted by phoenix_rising at 4:01 AM on November 16, 2011

I lived alone for 5 years when I was younger and there were definitely lonely times (middle of winter freezing cold alone in bed=not fun) but there was a lot I also liked about it--I agree about cultivating a hobby you can be totally selfish about (for example, painting or woodworking that takes up a big chunk of the apartment and might potentially be messy or even noisy depending), and I'd say get into a routine if you're not in one right now. You know, come home from work, you do X, Y, Z (as I was pretty young those for me were watch a syndicated episode of Simpsons, make dinner, go for a walk in the park, come home and call my family, take a nap, do schoolwork/write papers while watching Conan). I don't know why but the routine was very comforting. I'd also maybe suggest sensual coziness--pots of tea, a really awesome blanket or whatever (dare I say a Slanket?), warm slipper socks. Have a way to listen to music easily anywhere in the apartment and have at it in ways you'd have to avoid to be considerate of roommates, whether that's listening to that band nobody else likes first thing in the morning, or falling asleep to drone or whatever.

And go out to be social, even in tiny ways. Human contact daily, whether that's coffee at the local shop or browsing records or comics or used books at that one place where the nerdy owners love to talk your ear off about esoteric stuff. Attend shows, whether music or gallery, or go to the theater, or wine tastings, or cooking classes. Just stuff to get you in contact with people. If friends do a weekly or monthly board game or movie night or something similar, go.
posted by ifjuly at 4:40 AM on November 16, 2011

I have lived alone the entirety of my young adult life, by choice. With the people I've dated I've been offered to move into a place together or friends who wanted to be roommates but in all honesty, I love living alone. Sometimes it is lonely yes... but there are ways to deal with it.
Whenever I get lonely, I go for a long walk through the neighborhood... sometimes hours at a time. The stimulation is so much better than sitting watching TV. You can meet people, discover new places. No one says you have to stay inside and writhe in the lonesomeness.
If I'm stuck inside I'll play podcasts while I catch up on things that need to be tidied up or hobbies (of which, after a breakup/divorce, will SAVE you.). There's a voice, or several, to make you feel less lonely.
Eventually you'll learn what all us loners come to appreciate about living alone... you enjoy social experiences (and not with the same person who you wake up and go to sleep with) AND get to come home to a drama free quiet environment, whenever you want. You can walk around naked, singing at the top of your lungs. You can eat whatever you want, wake up and go to bed whenever you want, and everything where you live is YOUR stuff and you can put it where ever the hell you want to. Bust out the Velvet Elvis, have a bowl of ice cream in the nude while listening to Mozart. Embrace the freedom.
posted by hillabeans at 6:39 AM on November 16, 2011

I cannot address how to not feel lonely. I think that is determined in large part by one's personality. However, if you are short on activities to do or if you are wondering what kind of things single, happy people do, maybe this will help.
posted by xm at 6:44 AM on November 16, 2011

Thanks everyone. The problem is definitely that I'm conflating "being alone" with "being lonely". It's nice to hear that I can expect to eventually get over this. I'm as busy as I can reasonably be - it's really the off hours when everything seems so quiet and depressing - I guess I just need to learn to get comfortable with it.

Argonauta's suggestion is brilliant in it's simplicity - just go to be earlier. I live more-or-less in downtown Minneapolis, so my neighborhood is lively from before 6am to after 6pm, then gets quieter and quieter after the workday ends. Sleeping during the dead hours and being awake earlier means less time during the depressing (and dark) late evening. There's no reason *I* can't stay on Daylight Savings Time. Plus, I can go back to "our" yoga studio - I'm not going to run into my ex at 6:30 am Vinyasa.
posted by bonecrusher at 9:21 AM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

"to bed earlier" is what I meant...
posted by bonecrusher at 9:22 AM on November 16, 2011

Oh, another thought...sometimes "imaginary friends" aren't just for little kids.

Not that I'm suggesting you go all reality-blurring "don't sit there, that's my imaginary friend Sidney's chair!" the next time you have company over. More like, sometimes when you're really bored and lonely but are stuck at home, pretending that other people are there too may help. Hell, go all-out and have an imaginary tea party with Queen Elizabeth or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:06 AM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

No matter what you do, it's going to take time.

Your lifestyle took awhile to build; don't be afraid to give it awhile to rebuild.
posted by talldean at 10:05 AM on November 17, 2011

Might you enjoy having a pen pal?

I used to belong to International Pen Friends, and it was fascinating to get letters from all over the world. Writing letters would take up a good chunk of your free time, and it's an activity that directly connects you to other people.

There are lots of other pen pal organizations listed in this pen pal thread.
posted by kristi at 2:36 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I quite enjoy being lonely, in a way. I spent 4 months working an internship in another city where I essentially had no human contact outside of work. I find learning to be a fun and rewarding thing to do by myself.

Some examples: Teach yourself
-how to program a computer
-a foreign language
-how to play a musical instrument
-enough calculus to derive the formula for the circumference of a circle

Most things that can be learned, can be learned by oneself.

Beyond that, join several online communities around things you're interested in, and make yourself a name there.

Then again, I'm struggling with learning how to enjoy being with people, so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask.
posted by Violence at 3:28 PM on November 17, 2011

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